Business Offices Operating Guidelines
These guidelines are effective, as updated, on June 29, 2020 in St. Louis County. In accordance with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Second Amended Order Business and Individual Guidelines for Social Distancing and Re-Opening dated June 26, 2020 and effective June 29, 2020 (the “Order”), these guidelines may be replaced or modified by DPH based on new scientific information and local information including the trajectory of influenza-like illnesses, cases of COVID-19, and any other information deemed relevant to protect public health in St. Louis County.
As St. Louis County returns to the workplace after several months, it is critical that precautionary measures are followed to continue the success that mitigation efforts have had on the spread of COVID-19
This document provides guidelines for business leaders as they prepare for their staff to return to the workplace. The most effective tool for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus is physical distancing, but there are other proven successful measures that, if instituted, can stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure a safe space for your employees. The recommendations contained herein do not supersede Public Health orders, laws or regulations that apply to your business and jurisdiction.
The most important set of strategies involve physically removing the potential of exposure. These elimination strategies include ensuring that employees quarantine or isolate if they have or are believed to have COVID-19 or have come into contact with individuals who have COVID-19. To do so, businesses must educate their employees about disinfection processes and social distancing practices, quarantine and isolation, regularly screen employees to see if they have come into contact with a COVID-19 positive person and insist that quarantine and isolation policies are strictly followed.
Whenever possible, have people work or access the business from home; this should include restructuring responsibilities to minimize the numbers of employees that need to be physically present. Consider redistributing responsibilities to reduce contact between individuals and using technology to facilitate communication. For workplaces, this can mean instituting work from home policies. For those employees that must be physically present at the office, the business can reduce the number of employees present in a particular time period and keep employees distanced from one another, at least by 6 feet, and more, if possible.
Businesses should also implement engineering controls by creating physical barriers between people to reduce transmission. Businesses whose employees interact with the public should install physical barriers between customers and employees or otherwise use design elements to ensure six feet of distance between customers and employees, particularly in check-out lines or return lines or any other place where there is continued contact between the customer and employee. Install clear markings with signage, tape, or other means that show six (6) feet of distance as the appropriate spacing between customers. Provide signage inside and outside the facility outlining Social Distancing Requirements, limitations on crowd size, and procedures to limit crowd size.
Administrative controls change the way employees perform their work. Businesses should implement the following administrative controls:
- Reduce Face-to-Face Contact
- whenever possible, have employees work from home;
- restructure employee responsibilities to minimize the numbers of employees that need to be physically present at any one time;
- stagger work schedules to reduce the number of people on the premises at any one time;
- arrange for contactless payment, pick-up, and delivery options whenever feasible and provide postings as to the availability of such services;
- Frequent Sanitation
- require frequent sanitation of all high touch surfaces, such as restrooms, shared computers, check-out areas, carts, baskets, and any other areas that may be frequently touched by customers, employees, or any other individuals;
- provide breaks for employees for hand washing or sanitizing opportunities throughout the day;
- prohibit employees and customers from bringing outside containers, including reusable bags or boxes, into the facility;
- Require Face Coverings
- provide face masks or supplies to make face masks to all employees or volunteers working in their facilities;
- require employees or volunteers to wear face masks at work, unless the employee or volunteer is working alone in an enclosed area or cannot wear a face mask due to a medical condition;
- Regular Screening
- identify employees and volunteers who are potentially ill with COVID-19 through daily screening for symptoms;
- Manage Crowds
- limit the number of employees, customers, and other people who are permitted to be in the facility at any one time so that each of them can follow social distancing practices;
- in all areas which are prone to lines or congregation, install clear markings with signage, tape, or other means that show six feet of distance as the appropriate spacing between individuals;
- Protect the Vulnerable
- Establish special working hours, wherever possible, for individuals at high-risk of experiencing adverse outcomes from COVID-19;
General Requirements for Business Offices
Regardless of business specific considerations, there are measures that must be taken to mitigate the risk of infection to protect individuals:
- Employees should wear face coverings unless they are working alone in an enclosed space or unless unable to do so because of a medical condition.
- Incorporate engineering controls such as physical barriers where possible.
- Reconfiguring space to comply with Social Distancing Requirements by ensuring people are able to maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.
- Supporting and enabling employees to remain at home if they are unwell or have been in close contact with someone who is sick.
- Frequently sanitize and disinfect, with EPA-approved products, all high touch areas and surfaces that are touched by customers, employees, visitors or any other individuals.
- Train employees about procedures related to Disinfection Processes and Social Distancing Requirements.
- Provide reasonable breaks for employees to wash their hands.
- Require employees to quarantine or isolate if they have or are believed to have COVID-19, or if they have come into contact with individual(s) with COVID-19.
Employee Screening & Reporting
- Upon arrival at work, employees must wear face coverings, and employers must conduct health checks (e.g., temperature and symptom screening) of employees at the start of each shift. Conduct health checks safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations. Confidentiality should be respected. Employers may use examples of screening methods in CDC’s General Business FAQs as a guide.
- Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, muscle aches, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.
- Screening should include 1) a temperature check if it can be performed with a touchless thermometer, 2) asking about the presence of new or worsened cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fever, chills, muscle aches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, 3) asking if the employee has had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, and 4) asking if the employee has traveled outside the St. Louis area where social distancing was not practiced.
- Employees with a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or above, or who answer yes to any of the screening questions must not be allowed to enter the workplace.
- Employees who develop any symptoms of respiratory illness while at work must immediately be sent home. Employees with symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for additional guidance.
- If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, the business must work with DPH to ensure all employees and customers who can be identified as having had close contact while the employee was infectious are contacted. While awaiting formal investigation, compile a list of employees, customers, or other people known to be in close contact with the person diagnosed with COVID-19. Employees identified as having close contact must be immediately sent home or told not to come into work until the investigation has been conducted.
- Close off areas recently used by an employee or customer who has tested positive for COVID-19 and do not reuse them until after cleaning and disinfection. Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible. Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants.
Workspace Sanitation & Hygiene
- Provide breaks for employees to wash hands and sanitize their workspace throughout the day.
- Stock the office with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, allowing adequate time for appropriate cleaning between uses of conference rooms or other shared spaces.
- Discourage sharing of equipment such as phones and keyboards.
- Either close or implement mandatory social distancing requirements within common/amenity areas such as lounge areas.
- Remove or relocate chairs to maintain 6-foot distance in common areas.
- Establish increased common area cleaning protocol with specific instructions. Have hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes readily available.
- The number of individuals allowed to gather in a conference room is 50% of the regular capacity of the room. In no event, however, may there be more individuals in the room than the number than can practice safe social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals.
- Ensure that social distancing requirement are followed in conference rooms, including the wearing of face coverings.
- Conference rooms should be stocked with disinfectant wipes with adequate time allotted for appropriate cleaning between uses.
- Reconfigure conference room tables and chairs to accommodate 6 feet of space between participants.
- Place signage on conference tables encouraging the practice of safe distancing.
Kitchenette & Break Areas
- Establish and post guidelines for kitchenette and break areas to ensure social distancing.
- These areas should be stocked with disinfectant wipes and signs promoting proper handwashing.
- Reconfigure dining tables and chairs to accommodate proper distancing. Co-workers should not take breaks or eat meals with other co-workers.
- Train employees and post signage to discourage co-workers from congregating in communal areas.
Promote Individual Responsibility
- Employees should be empowered and required to stay home if they are sick, symptomatic, or exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Remind employees of their social responsibility to protect themselves and others by following protocols for minimizing risk to infection.
- Encourage tenants to develop their own protocols internally around conference room uses, coffee/lunch areas, phone booths, and shared workstations
Adapted from STL Regional Business Recovery Initiative Business Office Operating Protocols